Balkans 12-

Ottoman Empire Strategy & Tactics


General Staff

1. Introduction

The following are some Strategic and Tactical suggestions for the Ottoman Empire in The Operational Art of War's Balkans 12 Scenario (ACOW Version) by Todd Klemme. I'd be very interested in any comments, suggestions, differences of opinion and, in particular, alternatives.

2. The Keys to Winning

The East-West Rail Line

Hold this at ALL costs (at least until late in the game- turn 10) or your supply situation west will become untenable, especially if you lose the remaining 2 supply points at Scutari/Yannina (or have them isolated). As your units degrade with the loss of supply, your casualties will mount until this front just collapses, handing the game to the Balkan League.

Forward Defence

Defend as far forward as possible. Even if that means moving a unit forward without the MPs to dig it in- the casualties are still tremendous for the attacker and remember- time is on YOUR side, not the enemy's.

The Reserves and Rotation System

Rotate units in and out of combat as they wear down. Split units into 3. Have 2 units in the line with the third (weakest?) one hex behind. Dig all in and place the third unit on Tactical Reserve IF you feel its arrival in the front line may help to 'burn' enemy rounds and if it is in reasonable shape. Otherwise use this rear position to both rest units and construct second lines, preferably in good supply. If possible only 2 out of 3 'pieces' of any unit should be in the front line- if only one is attacked you may be able to rotate units in and out of combat so that 2 out of the 3 are in reasonable shape.

In some cases (or where you need to keep units undivided such as in the eastern theatre line with its forts), rotate entire formations out, putting them either in total reserve or else in the front line in areas that are less threatened and/or needed by the enemy.


Holding this is the key to supply flowing up the Vardar River valley along the rail line and consequently being able to mount any effective defence there. Supply radius is 1 so if you lose the rail link up here, the roads won't help much as they'll degrade from 29-21-14-7 for each hex further away from a rail hex connected to the supply net you are. If you can't keep this, you might as well abandon your western front before it abandons you.


All day, every day. Check EVERYTHING possible is dug in before your last round/turn end.


If you can make every advance extremely costly for the Balkan League you may win on casualty points. That's because it's quite easy to run up a casualty differential of 30+ points, more than enough to compensate for the loss of either Kirk Killise or Adrianople. And it goes without saying to keep your attacks to a minimum- see section on counterattacks.

Strategic Reserve

Keep a STRATEGIC reserve as opposed to tactical reserve on both fronts (east and west) if you can. Keep your reinforcement schedule in mind to help with this. NEVER use Local Reserve setting unless you have a very good reason for it- it just means units bob around in the rear using up MPs and then often aren't available to go exactly where you want them to in your turn.


Cavalry raids behind enemy lines can tie up vastly disproportionate enemy forces as they hunt you down and, in particular, they force the collection of 6 units to get the surround necessary to force your unit's surrender.

3. The Naval War

  1. Keep your fleet out of range of Balkan League artillery at 2 hexes. And DON'T bombard Balkan League artillery within 1 hex range- it WILL fire back.
  2. Kill the Greek fleet ASAP if you can and find it at sea. Use both fleets and get a flank attack if you can.
  3. Get fleets to port before turn end if low on supply.
  4. On turn 1, I think it depends what the Balkan League do as to your disposition, plus whether you can protect Salonica Bay without being in range of his artillery. I think I'd tend to get (and keep) both fleets together ASAP.
  5. Don't leave Salonica or Constantinople unguarded unless you've got fleets protecting Salonica Bay or at the Dardanelles next to the guns with his navy destroyed- or unless you're sure there aren't units at Athens waiting to try an amphibious invasion. And with this latter threat keep in mind his reinforcement schedule for the ENTIRE game.

4. Supply Considerations

  1. As mentioned earlier, hang on to the East-West rail link as long as possible. This is CRITICAL. Lose this and it may very likely cost you the game. At some point you may have to decide whether it is worth keeping any longer given the situation east or west.
  2. You are Player 2. This means if you cut off enemy units in your turn they will be out of supply for bookkeeping between turns.
  3. If you lose or have surrounded both western supply sources AND the East-West rail link is cut with no access to any other supply source, you won't get ANY supply west and your supply unit if here will be useless. Neither will you get ANY replacements for units in this (by now out-of-supply) western theatre of operations.
  4. Place supply unit on Salonica front if you plan to hang on to the railroad. Bear in mind this ONLY helps units of the First Army so you'll need to move these as well to get any benefit. The supply counter won't help ANY other units.
  5. Keep trace on and bear supply in mind when placing units and especially HQs- adjacent to SUBORDINATE units.
  6. Focus on HQs/Supply units whenever you see them, particularly alone. Conversely, keep yours protected- rarely have them in the front line. Note that support and command squads are used here- Every % of supply squads you destroy in his formation reduces his supply one %. So kill 20 out of 40 supply squads and the enemy formation's supply distribution efficiency (FDSE) goes down 50%. That means in a 20 supply value hex where the unit doesn't move, it'll only get 10, which is what's needed for one round of combat. Kill an HQ and the formation's supply distribution efficiency goes to 30%- in the above example it would only get 6.

5. Counterattacks (and Attacks)

This is, after all, World War ONE- casualties can prove prohibitively, even obscenely, expensive. I'd suggest a very sparing approach. Ask yourself the following questions before going 'over the top':
  1. Is one of my objectives in immediate danger?
  2. Is my line in immediate danger?
  3. Is this hex critical to my strategic goals (sometimes just the spare ground as a buffer in early turns indicates yes)?
  4. Can I get a flank attack?
  5. Is he NOT dug in?
  6. Is/are his units(s) in poor health?
  7. Can I muster enough strength with decent health and to attack early in the turn with all MPs left (so I still have some turn left to readjust lines/dig in post-combat)?
  8. Do I have units in the same hex with assaulting units in case the assault goes terribly wrong (possibly with evaporation leaving a hole in my line)?
If the answer to all the above is Yes, OK. If it's NO on 5 of 6 counts, think again. And for every one item that's a no, think yet again- more often than not you'll find yourself trading your rifle for a shovel. And if you still decide to go ahead and anything goes wrong, well... just don't ever lose that shovel... best thing since the wheel...

6. Tactical Suggestions

  1. Move 1 Army (plus supply unit) and 1 Corps to Salonica front by rail. 2 Corps somewhere in the middle until you deduce whether the main target is Salonica or Constantinople. This will take more than one turn by rail so get 1 Army out west for use first and maybe 1st Division/1 Corps to the appropriately named Drama to support centre line with remainder of formation following on foot- it might be worth moving them 8 of 9 MPs along the road and using the remaining 1 MP to dig in, thus providing immediate backup trenches.
  2. Split the unit in Scutari and move it out. It's doubtful if the enemy wants the godforsaken place early given possible Austro-Hungarian Empire entry, so leaving the whole unit here is a waste. It might be possible to engineer the taking of Scutari by the Balkan League to get the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the fray. But since they're player 2 it would mean a player who either didn't understand the consequences or you'd have to force a retreat and have the unit in reorg in his turn so it couldn't move- both long shots. And I certainly wouldn't try doing this with Constantinople.
  3. Do 'Ascension Day' Missions behind enemy lines with Cavalry, to disrupt supply/cause mayhem. And use Cavalry not just to get past units, but to SEE what's in a hex. Once a line forms and there are no gaps to exploit keep them back to perform this function (recce) instead. And splitting them into 3 still means each piece has good recce ability if the units are still in good shape. Don't forget- supply is critical to getting and keeping your units' good recce values.
  4. Place HQs adjacent to their OWN FORMATION Units- bear in mind at Internal Support they WON'T help anyone else. Same for artillery. Keep both out of front lines if you can.
  5. Blow bridges in immediate danger.
  6. Put your fortress units on Tactical Reserve if they are not dug in or get 'undug'. They can't go anywhere but it may help in them supporting other units.
  7. Try anything to derail the direction of his war machine. Any time he is forced to react to one of your moves, it wastes ENEMY time. Time is on YOUR side, NOT the enemy's.
  8. Remember engineers help in digging AND fording rivers (e.g. 12,19-Kotchana). And even ENTRAINED Engineers provide fording support- yes, I tested this at 32,19 (Demotika). If not needed desperately, have them digging fallback lines. Occasionally if you have a surplus of engineers in the replacement pool, it might be an idea to use them in Limited Attack/Minimize Losses attacks instead of regular squads to wear down the enemy. Likewise dig fallback lines with reserve/resting units. If a unit is going on Tactical Reserve and has some MPs left, dig first, then put on Tactical Reserve. As player 2 next turn (the enemy turn), all your units start with full movement allowances.
  9. The 7th and 8th Corps withdraw on turns 5 and 7 respectively at 20% probability until game end. So use them ASAP, but stack them with OTHER units that won't suddenly vanish at the start of the Balkan League's turn. And BE VERY CAREFUL with these units- if they are withdrawn it's just prior to the Balkan League's turn, so the enemy may suddenly be in front of YOUR VACATED POSITIONS.
  10. Keep Super Rivers in mind when you plan your defence- they can't be crossed except at bridges. (e.g. 15,23).

7. External Intervention

  1. Greece out at a 10% chance each turn starting Turn 7 for 4 turns.
  2. British Fleet intervenes if Constantinople is captured at a 75% chance and Rumania at a 50% chance.
  3. Austro-Hungarian Empire at a 50% chance if Scutari is lost.
All are checked each turn for 3 turns. Don't count on any of these, though the odds are statistically slightly in their favour that, Greece exit excepting, they will occur.

8. Guerrillas

Bear in mind some of your hexes may change ownership due to these, though don't make it an overriding priority. Just keep it in mind and place units that are resting up in rear areas appropriately. I think you really just have to keep it in mind only- you can't garrison everywhere and you'll never know where they're going to pop up (other than not in urban areas).